Stellar Horizons

Every Man for Himself
Survival in the new frontier

Nobody said it was easy living in the new frontier, but when simple folk get caught between political and economic powerhouses, life can get downright tough! Hutchinson is a busy port on the edge of Alliance territory. Official and well-patrolled shipping lanes head coreward from the domed cities and extensive orbital stations, while small and medium-size independent contractors brave the more risky space between Hutchinson and new frontier planets like Crockett II and Boone III.

While there are no shortage of ships and Captains willing to brave the dangers of frontier space in exchange for the freedom and potential profits they desire, a good crew is harder to come by. So it was that Captain Gavin Summers found himself in need of a few good men and women to man his ship, the Lady Luck. He had a job and a surly first mate named Jace, but he lacked a decent pilot and mechanic. When he found a "fixer" named "Art", the other two came as part of the package.

The job seemed simple enough; deliver a load of luxury goods to the Magistrate on Newton. But the crew's suspicions were roused by the relatively light load they were carrying. Those suspicions were confirmed when they discovered that Captain Summers intended to make a "quick stop" on the way. Where they stopped was Kepler 442b V, which wasn't on any civilized trade route as there wasn't supposed to be any kind of settlement there. What they found was a makeshift smuggler's den and trading post. While scavenging for parts in a local junkyard, [Joel's character's name] met a slave named Hodges, who seemed to be as much of a mechanical wizard as he himself was. Hodges had the short, squat and burly build of a heavy worlder, as he had grown up on Kepler 442b V. He was also ugly and socially dysfunctional, as he had been a slave all of his life; a fact that [Joel's character] learned when he engaged the man in conversation.

The group's stay on Kepler 442b V was brief, and they were soon on their way to Newton with a full load of "luxury goods." "Art" talked Captain Summers into sharing details of the new cargo, which he figured out consisted of materials originally destined for the settlers of Newton and other frontier planets, but which had been stolen by pirates and was now marked for delivery to Newton's Magistrate.

Shortly before arriving at Newton, Lady Luck was intercepted by an Alliance destroyer named Dauntless and ordered to heave to and prepare to be boarded for inspection. The Alliance ship was on special anti-piracy assignment due to political pressure triggered by recent pirate activity in the area. "Art" spoke with the ship's Captain, Commander Kren. He identified himself as a CTC (Colonial Trading Consortium) representative and eventually convinced the Captain to forgo the search.

Arriving at Newton, they discovered a great deal of civil unrest as colonists suffered from lack of supplies (due to the pirate raiding). The crew were ordered to help unload the cargo onto anti-grav palettes hooked to a truck for transport to the Magistrate's palace. [Joel's character] rigged the palettes to topple shortly after the truck left the hanger area. This would happen at about the time that the shipment was part-way through the crowd of hungry colonists which had gathered around the port in anticipation of a shipment of supplies. Meanwhile, "Art" assessed the crowd and Magistrate's guards who were keeping the crowd back. He spoke the right words into exactly the right ears so that when the palettes dumped their cargo and the shipping containers broke open, the guards were kept busy while the crowd quickly captured and redistributed the goods to those who needed them.

This did not sit well with the Magistrate, of course. Captain Summers and "Art" traveled to the Magistrate's palace to get paid for the shipment (technically they had completed delivery to the Magistrate's men prior to the goods being "stolen"). Meanwhile, the rest of the crew retired to Newton's Rest, the local tavern and eatery. While First Mate Jace managed to start a fight with the locals and get all of them thrown in jail, "Art" thoroughly convinced both the Magistrate and Captain Summers that he was actually an official representative of the CTC, and that he was traveling incognito through the colony worlds to consider new trade deals which could be profitable for local authorities.

So in the end, the goods went back to the colonists who needed them, Captain Summers (and the PCs) got paid for the delivery even though Magistrate Collins didn't receive it, and the PCs helped settle Newton a little in the short term. Magistrate Collins also hired the crew to deliver a load of locally harvested raw materials to Hutchinson for sale to manufacturing interests.

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Prologue: The Galactic Civil War
Operation Broken Back

Adventure Setup

Four years ago, this war seemed like a good idea.  The Galactic Alliance was centralizing its power and increasingly coercing independent planets into joining.  Those independent planets that were strong enough, or stubborn enough, fought back.  The Independent Confederacy quickly recruited a vast army, their ranks swelled by independence-minded patriots, misfits from the Core Alliance Worlds, aliens and sentient androids who would be second-class citizens in the Alliance, and folks who just had a strong desire to be left alone.
It’s been a long four years.
The war is not going well for the Confederacy.  The Alliance has consolidated its hold on the core systems and has persuaded/conquered/coerced enough of the outlying planets that the Confederate forces are split up, no longer able to unite for a major offensive, all on the defensive now. A certain defeatism is beginning to spread through Confederate ranks.
But not everywhere! General Forrest Bedford rose from the enlisted ranks to general officer on the strength of his courage, cunning, and ferocity.  He hasn't given up hope. He is certain that a couple of strategic victories in the right places will expose Allied vulnerabilities while allowing a large enough Confederate force to reassemble in time to strike at those vulnerabilities. 
In order to accomplish this, General Bedford implements a daring gamble: an all-out assault on a critical but vulnerable link in the Alliance supply and communications chain for their fleet in the border regions. A successful strike will ease pressure on the Confederate Naval assets and give them space to regroup and reorder after recent losses. 
You are a commando strike force attached to a larger force assaulting the Alliance base. Your role is to sneak in behind enemy lines to disable or disrupt the enemy's defense coordination. To accomplish your mission, you’ll need a daring and quick-thinking commander, a hotshot pilot, an engineer with hacking and/or demolitions skills, a scout who can ghost past enemy sentries, and a heavy weapons expert who can provide enough covering fire to get you out alive if you’re discovered.

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Delivery Gone Awry
The right place at the wrong time

After months of laying low to dispel the heat from a previous mission, Captain Xavier Nguyen and Art Delacor along with two new crew members fount themselves hanging out in Sunny's Watering Hole. Sunny's was a cramped underground bar with barely adequate ventilation nestled snugly on the "uninhabited" planet of Kepler 442b V, in the trading station known by smugglers and pirates as Neverwhere. As they pondered their next move, they noticed a nervous-looking man watching the doorway as if he expected hell itself to come walking in to see him. When three unusual figures entered the bar, it became apparent they were the ones he was waiting for.

Art surreptitiously dropped eves on the table as the trio homed in on their prey, and discovered that the nervous man had failed to deliver some dangerous cargo to its ultimate destination, and the three newcomers were representatives of his customer looking for an explanation. While the man seemed unwilling or unable to provide details, it was clear that he was scared of something and refused to move the cargo any further. Taking the opportunity presented, Art smoothly inserted himself into the conversation and made contact with the potential client. Arranging a meet-up for later the team extracted themselves from the scene in preparation.

After meeting privately with the three strangers, one human soldier, a young girl mature beyond her years and a Sim (humanoid robot with simulated intelligence), the team had a new job. What seemed a simple, if dangerous task turned out to be anything but mundane. After a significant amount of digging, Art discovered the identities of their guests. Sana Bedford was the only daughter of one General Forrest Bedford, self-proclaimed leader of the Confederacy of Independent Worlds (of which only one world was a member) and military dictator of Dezaerate II, one of the frontier planets. The Sim was Sana's companion and the soldier one of his most trusted officers.

Surprising though their passengers might be, even more startling was the nature of their cargo. Stories abounded of the cursed planet Telemachus III, home of the nightmarish Amoks. Few came close to the truth, however, and some evidence existed that the obelisk carefully entombed within the lead-lined crate in their cargo bay was the source of the twisted monsters who used to be men. It was clear that General Bedford intended to use the obelisk in some way to attack the Alliance. Now that they understood the nature of their mission, they had to decide if it was better to deliver the deadly cargo into Bedford's hands or risk his wrath by diverting their delivery.

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Meeting the General

Arriving on Dezerate with the mysterious artifact, the party is greeted personally by General Bedford and a handful of others, including his chief of security, Garland Truitt, two bodyguards, and Minister of Public Relations, Dane Kwan. Truitt is clearly not pleased by Kwan's presence, but Bedford is focused exclusively on the successful delivery of the artifact and safety of his daughter. While he admonishes her for sneaking off, he privately admires her bravery and determination. He is more displeased with his Covert Operations Commander for allowing her to sneak past him.

Bedford was pleased at the success of the mission and, therefore, the party's service. Being in a good mood, he was inclined to be indulgent and generous. Once satisfied with the disposition of the cargo, he received them as honored guests, provided accommodations and invited them to a celebratory dinner that evening. The artifact was secured deep underground in a lead-lined vault designed specifically for the purpose. His team of specialists were ready to analyze and monitor it. 

During dinner that evening, General Bedford offered the party another job. While Sana was away on her mission, he received intelligence of particular interest. A man on Crockett was heard boasting that he'd found a hidden archive on Telemachus IV. He claimed that he was driven off planet before he could properly investigate the place, but did recover a peculiar device which seems to store and project holographic messages. The man offered to sell it to the right buyer for a significant amount of money, but had not found one yet as of the time word arrived. Bedford wanted the party to visit Crockett, talk to the man and determine the validity of his story. If it seemed plausible, they were authorized to purchase the device along with any information he could give them on the location where it was found.

After accepting the job, the party took a few days to repair and restock the Lady Luck. During this time, Garland Truitt arranged for the PCs to have an unfortunate incident with some local hired thugs. Dane Kwan learned of this and warned them just in time. They easily defeated the attack, with Athena single-handedly whipping most of the thugs with ease. While this distraction took place, more competent agents snuck onboard The Lady Luck and attempted to sabotage the ship. Luckily (Danielle's character) remained aboard working on repairs and was able to detect and repel the crew before any real damage was inflicted.

In time the party flew to Crockett and tracked down the junker with the interesting bauble. After some heavy drinking and convincing, the man let Interface handle the object, which turned out to be an alien recording device. While she was able to access more recordings than the treasure-hunter had, she was stymied by the language used by the previously unknown alien in the recording. When she tapped into her connection to the alien artifact, however, she was quickly flooded with the information she needed and proceeded to translate in real-time as the alien recounted the gradual destruction of his entire species by the uncontrollable actions of the alien artifact.

Still in need of useful information, the party headed for Telemachus…

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Welcome to the Jungle
Trip to Telemachus

Our valiant heroes visited Telemachus and discovered an isolated lush jungle valley among the otherwise cold dry steppe of the planet. According to their guide, the artifact was recovered from a stone temple found deep in the heart of the jungle. As soon as they entered the valley, Interface felt a presence calling to her from within its depths. The party encountered dangers they had expected: the climate, dangerous wild animals, stinging insects, and quicksand. But they also discovered that Amoks were present in the jungle, which the guide had told them was not true. Had the removal of the artifact allowed them entrance or drawn them here by its absence? Or was their guide simply lying?

The ruins in the middle of the jungle at first looked like Mayan pyramids. However, (Danielle's character), who knew something about archaeology, pronounced the ruins "fake." They weren't carved from stone, but formed from some sort of concrete. And the hieroglyphs carved on them didn't match anything from human history. The ruins were inhabited by Amoks, but of a different sort. They all dressed identically and acted in eerie unison. They claimed that their Goddess wanted to speak to Interface. 

And in fact there was an AI with impressive powers inhabiting the temple. It seemed like the temple was created by the reptile people to harness the power of the monolith, which it used to control the biosphere within the valley. When the artifact was removed from the temple, the valley began to return to normalized planetary conditions. This process would take many years to complete, but eventually the valley would look similar to the rest of the planet. The AI sensed Interface's connection to the artifact and pleaded with her and it through her to return the artifact to the planet so it could continue performing its function.

With new insight the party set out in The Lady Luck to bring word back to General Bedford and Sana of their discovery.

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We Who Are About to Die
Can this crazy alien artifact be controlled or not?

Our heroes returned to Dezerate from their fruitful trip to Telemachus. On Telemachus they learned much about the ancient alien artifact called The Starstone. While they were visiting they also picked up a few items from the ruins of the reptilian aliens to whom Telemachus used to be home. On the way back they decided to give General Bedford some of the information they discovered but not all.

Once back on Telemachus, they proceeded to refit The Lady Luck for the long journey deep into unexplored space to investigate a lead provided to them by The Starstone. According to the artifact, some kind of communications relay would be found there, an ancient remnant of Progenitor technology which The Starstone hoped to use to contact its long-silent masters. During the refit they were dogged by agents of Bedford's security chief, Garland Truitt, who obviously didn't trust the newcomers. Art confronted him in the presence of Bedford, who asked the two of them to cooperate for the good of the Confederacy. Neither was pleased by this admonition but made an uneasy truce. The refit was completed and journey begun.

It took several weeks to reach the distant star system, then several days to search it for points of interest. What they found was interesting indeed. The star itself, a blue dwarf…, was encircled by a massive artificial structure. It was a ring approximately twenty-five million miles in length and one thousand miles wide. The star's only orbiting body was a small planetoid covered in ice and locked into an orbit matching the ring.

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